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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Tries to Rally As Fight Nears Kabul

KABUL -- The Taliban mobilized its troops across Afghanistan on Tuesday to reinforce fighters dueling with former government soldiers north of the Afghan capital.


As the rival forces dug in outside Kabul, Pakistan's interior minister, Nasrullah Babaar, was in the city to try to move the capital's new rulers to the negotiation table.


Babaar, often accused of heavily supporting the Taliban, also traveled to Mazar-e-sharif in the north of the country to meet the powerful warlord Rashid Dostum, believed to be the only other major force left in Afghanistan.


Afghanistan's deposed government has accused Pakistan of backing the Taliban -- an army of former religious students -- with money, weapons and military training, a charge Islamabad has denied.


There were no public statements following the meetings.


Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, is trying to convene an all-party summit in northern Afghanistan, but so far the Taliban has refused to attend.


In Kabul, the hardline Taliban rulers blocked residents and reporters from traveling north of the capital, where their forces battled guerrilla-style attacks with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.


"Our forces are orderly and positioned in defensive positions,'' said Taliban Information Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. "We can defend against any attack by the enemy."


The few travelers who walked into Kabul from villages to the north said there was fighting on the northern road, but the Taliban still controlled the important military air base at Baghram, about 50 kilometers away.


Since being routed from Kabul by invading Taliban soldiers, troops loyal to former military chief Ahmed Shah Massood have been waging an effective guerrilla-type war north of the capital.


They have been hitting Taliban soldiers simultaneously at several places along the northern road, cutting their defense lines and trapping hundreds of Taliban soldiers, travelers say.


In Pakistan, a Taliban spokesman said reinforcements were being sent to the Afghan capital from elsewhere in Afghanistan.


Mullah Eid Mohammed Wahadyar said 4,000 fighters from throughout the country would arrive in the capital in the next two days, when a counterattack would be launched against the former government soldiers.


Amir Ali, who operates a rickety wooden tea house in northern Kabul, said Taliban soldiers have been moving heavy equipment and soldiers to the frontline.


"What is left in Afghanistan except death and bombs and killing?" asked Ali. "We have nothing left. Even God has forgotten us."


Battered by four years of bitter factional fighting among rival Islamic groups, the residents of Kabul seemed to be preparing for another round of war.